With early action admissions decisions hot off the press and regular admissions decisions right around the corner, many high school seniors are wondering if they did enough to earn a spot at one of the best public universities in the country.
One route students take to gain an advantage in admissions are Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses.
Ashley Memory, assistant director of admissions, said both programs are viewed equally.
“We regard them as college level courses,” she said. “We regard strong performance in those as evidence that students will succeed at Carolina.”
Emma Winters, a recently accepted senior at Charlotte Catholic High School, said her counselor recommended taking several AP courses to increase her chances of admission. The exams, required by her school, came with an $89 price tag.
“If you’re taking one it’s not a big deal but if you’re taking six, it adds up,” Winters said.
UNC admissions requires high school counselors to submit a school report disclosing what courses are offered at their school.
“We evaluate a student’s curriculum in the context of the high school where they’re enrolled. We look at the highest level that is offered at that high school,” Memory said.
Memory said admissions does not track which high schools require students to pay for exams, but that reporting exam scores is optional.
Deborah Davis, director of college readiness communications for the College Board, said the board, which runs the AP program, is committed to accessibility and affordability.
“Students who qualify for the federal free and reduced lunch program are eligible for AP exam fee reductions from the College Board, and these students often qualify for additional fee reductions through federal and state grants,” Davis said in an email.
She said the College Board has also recently partnered with Google, which recently gave a $5 million grant to implement the AP STEM Access program.
“With this support, 335 public high schools across the country are now offering new AP math and science courses for underserved minority and female students who did not have access to them before,” Davis said.
She said they are also developing a campaign that would ensure all students who have the potential to do well in the AP program take at least one AP course.
Marie Vivas, university relations manager for the International Baccalaureate Organization, said IB exams also come at a cost, which is sometimes paid by the school and sometimes by the student.
She said IB is committed to making the program available to low income or minority students. When IB first began in schools internationally, schools and families were able to front the costs of the program.
“But when it came to the U.S. the way it was implemented in public schools or schools that were academically at risk with underserved students and the IB had to change,” Vivas said. “Issues of access and equity became important to what we do.”
Vivas said in 2000, no students taking IB exams were on free and reduced lunch, but in 2013, that number has risen to 20 percent.
“We are more and more working in school districts with underserved students and trying to make sure they have access to the IB.”
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